Two Teachers Introduce Artist-Designed Little Free Libraries and ‘Read in Color’ Initiative in Kalamazoo

By Margret Aldrich

Thirty-two colorful Little Free Library book-sharing boxes will call Kalamazoo, Michigan, home thanks to local educators Dionna Roberts and Kellen Deau. Each library was hand-painted by a local artist; they feature beautiful motifs of flowers, birds, ships, planets, dinosaurs, abstract designs, and more!

Dionna, a fourth-grade ELA teacher and literacy coach at Winchell Elementary School, and Kellen, an art and design teacher at the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, teamed up to create The Art of Planting Little Free Libraries project. The goals are to create greater book access, share diverse books, and bring people together in Kalamazoo.

The pair also partnered with us at the Little Free Library nonprofit organization to bring the Read in Color initiative to Kalamazoo to share diverse books in their libraries, which will be installed throughout the summer and fall.

“The impact that I would like to see with this project, and Read in Color specifically, is a community-wide increase in book excitement, reading joy, and access to books for ALL,” Dionna said. “I would like to see reading and the act of sharing books and stories become part of the culture in ALL neighborhoods without barriers of any kind. I’d like to witness areas of town that can be considered book deserts become book oases as a result of this collaboration.”

The project brings together many Kalamazoo community members, including dozens of local artists and carpenter D. Darnell of the Dapper Hammer who built the majority of the libraries. Dionna and Kellen also say the project is building stronger community relationships by collaborating with neighborhood residents, schools, parks, and churches to host the Little Free Libraries.

We were also proud to work with local bookstore Bookbug to source a selection of multicultural and inclusive books to help keep Kalamazoo’s Little Free Libraries full of relevant reading.

Don’t miss this video of Dionna (center left) and Kellen (center right) at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that kicked off the project!

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